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R. Wood "ryecroftwood2"

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The Dark Knight Rises (DVD + UV Copy) [2012]
The Dark Knight Rises (DVD + UV Copy) [2012]
Dvd ~ Christian Bale
Price: £4.99

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An ultimately satisfying end to one of the all-time great trilogies!, 26 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Four years ago, I left the pictures having watched The Dark Knight and was rendered absolutely speechless. Normally, after one has seen a film, they usually discuss it with great detail, excitement and/or criticism, but the sheer depth and hard-hitting emotion of Christopher Nolan's Oscar-winning Batman triumph left me staggered and unable to discuss it momentarily. I had to let the movie's power just sink in that little bit longer.

Truthfully, if Nolan didn't produce another Batman sequel, I would've been happy. I mean, The Dark Knight was simply a masterpiece and the greatest superhero movie of all time (bar none). To try and TOP THAT would be next-to-impossible and there was no real need for a trilogy. And yet, four years we are.

The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after the Joker's rampage was thwarted. But the so-called `victory' came at too many a high price; Bruce Wayne's childhood friend/love-interest Rachel Dawes died, his ally/friend Harvey Dent was transformed into the vengeful Two-Face and Batman was forced to take the blame for Harvey's crimes and death so that Gotham would never lose hope. Shunned by the city he had saved and plagued by the injuries he had sustained throughout his career, Bruce was forced into retirement.

And now, Gotham City's peace is about to be ruthlessly shattered by the arrival of the ruthless mercenary known only as Bane.

Again, trying to surpass The Dark Knight would be next-to-impossible, but this third film is a reminder that Christopher Nolan approaches his projects with intelligence and logic. Nolan doesn't strive to produce something that's `bigger, badder & better' than The Dark Knight, nor does he do it with the sole aim of making more money. For the last hurrah, Chris delivers a logical, satisfying resolution to his Batman series that's full of the trademark purpose & emotional depth that we've come to expect since Batman Begins.

Speaking of which, The Dark Knight Rises pays homage to some significant plot elements from Batman Begins (as well as The Dark Knight), wrapping up this cinematic continuity in a manner that's most befitting. And like Batman Begins & The Dark Knight, this third part also stands alone as a movie that pushes the right buttons. There are moments of heartbreak, intelligence, human warmth, sinister intentions and exhilarating action that will have you on the edge of your seat from start-to-finish.

On the acting front, Christian Bale deserves the highest praise for delivering what is undoubtedly his most human performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman. When you first see Bruce on screen, he's an absolute shell of his former self to the point of where it's legitimately despairing to the viewer. After all he's gone through, you truly feel for him and fear for the end of his story. To watch Bruce (and Batman for that matter) here will range back-and-forth between upsetting & inspiring. Christian's performance truly engages you.

Michael Caine also falls into that category as Alfred. While you may expect nothing less from the man (whose career is the stuff-of-legend), Michael's performance here affected me in a way I don't recall experiencing before. His role as faithful servant/trusted friend/father-figure is stronger than even his already-wonderful performances in previous Batman movies; full of genuine poignancy and interactions with Bale that will reduce even the stoniest of fans to tears. It's a shame Caine suffers from reduced screen time.

Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) & Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon) likewise continue to provide great support in their roles, and the new faces of the main-cast - Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Det. John Blake) & Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate) - more than prove their worth in bringing to life such colourful characters, particularly Gordon-Levitt who stands out much more than just a generic cop, instead being a deep supporting figure to the Batman.

On the villains front, Anne Hathaway is simply sensational as Catwoman/Selina Kyle, embodying the character with all the elegance, wit, sex-appeal and hard-edged charm that the role deserves and demands. Like everyone says, Hathaway is a true scene-stealer, and Tom Hardy likewise has such presence as Bane. Although lacking the charisma & rich depth of Heath Ledger's Joker, Hardy nonetheless rises to the occasion with an intense, brutal & utterly intimidating performance (intertwined with some exceptional body language). Nolan again deserves praise for his rendition of a Batman villain; presenting an incarnation of Bane that not only works well on screen, but remains true to the essence of the original character in the comics.

Unfortunately, this DVD version is very lacking when compared to previous home releases of Batman films. Both Batman Begins & The Dark Knight received the two-disc-set treatment that was packed with documentaries, features, trailers etc, and here (due to the overwhelming rise of Blu-Ray), this single-disc comes equipped only with the usual array of subtitles and the brief, yet superb "The Journey of Bruce Wayne" featurette. While this is a great little extra, it seems stuck on as only an afterthought for the DVD release, which after previous Batman films is something of a disappointment.

So is The Dark Knight Rises better than The Dark Knight? NO, but what's so commendable is that it doesn't TRY to be. Nolan and his crew have just set about making an excellent and satisfying conclusion to The Dark Knight Trilogy and that's what they've done. Is it THE superhero film of 2012? Sorry, but for me, it's still The Avengers. However, The Dark Knight Rises remains a strong, emotional climax to a series that will stay with you forever. A must-have finale to what is unquestionably the best superhero film trilogy of all-time, and one of cinema's greatest trilogies ever in history. PERIOD.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 28, 2012 11:11 PM GMT

Al Murray: the Only Way is Epic
Al Murray: the Only Way is Epic
by Al Murray
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £9.25

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Words of wisdom from the Pub Landlord!, 25 Dec 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Al Murray has always been one of those comedians who I've admired. His Pub Landlord gimmick has helped establish him as one of the most iconic comedians Britain has, along with his talents as being a genuinely brilliant and funny man.

I must say I was surprised when I came across this on the Amazon Vine Programme. Not because it was Al's latest stand-up show, but because I thought I'd selected the DVD version instead of the audiobook. Not that it matters, really, as this still remains one of the most hilarious things I've been subjected to, recently.

Murray has always possessed such energy and charisma on stage, and he evidently shows no signs of slowing down here. The man remains as sharp, quick-witted and boisterous as ever, and does a simply tremendous job of involving his audience/interacting with them (thus making them feel special and integral to the show), setting-up long term jokes & running gags and displaying some genuinely intelligent comedy.

Al's material utilises a lot of stuff from modern society and throughout history, all with brilliant, creative effect. He talks about failing governments, the recession, dealing with kids today & free speech (among other things), expressing his genuine feelings through excellent, comedic banter. It's absolutely hypnotic, and is bound to please all long-time fans. Even those who haven't been subjected to that much of the Pub Landlord in the past will be reduced to hysterics.

Any warnings? Well, it's only fair to point out that there's plenty of strong language present in this concert, and Murray's very vocal opinion on various issues may cause offence to some. So "The Only Way is Epic" may not be for everyone.

Other reviewers have pointed out that because this is in AUDIO ONLY, a lot of the material has been made redundant. That genuinely wasn't the case for me. Granted, the only time when I struggled to visualise in my mind's eye was during the opening and near the end with the `tent sketch', but because the majority of the show was so accessible, it made the concert (overall) transfer so well to this audiobook format. If you wish to stick this on your iPod to listen to on a long journey, than this is all the more ideal.

At sixty-five minutes, this doesn't really outstay its welcome due to not dragging. "The Only Way is Epic: LIVE" is simply brilliant, witty and (dare I say) inspiring stuff from the Pub Landlord. Al Murray fans can truly rejoice. As for others, I would definitely rate it.

Batgirl: Batgirl Rising
Batgirl: Batgirl Rising
by Lee Garbett
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's a new Batgirl in town! And she's AWESOME!, 21 Dec 2012
Stephanie Brown was always a character that I liked. As one of the more obscure members of the Bat-Family, Steph was a loose cannon as Spoiler, possessing a reckless-streak and vulnerability to contrast her heart and desire to do good. Her background as the daughter of Cluemaster (one of the lamest villains in history), romance with Tim Drake (the third Robin) and highly-likeable personality made Stephanie Brown just so appealing to me.

Naturally, I was one of the many fans who protested her atrocious treatment and death in the infamous War Games crossover, and was pleased to see her brought back to life as Spoiler. But because the character had been tarnished and ill-treated so much, a serious refresh was in order.

Enter Bryan Q. Miller (writer for Smallville), who was given the task of writing the (then) new Batgirl title. As part of DC's Batman: Reborn campaign (back in 2009), Stephanie Brown was given a brand new purpose, a new life and a second chance.

Collecting the first seven issues of this superb run, Batgirl Rising (taking place two years before the whole divisive Flashpoint/New 52 reboot) sees Stephanie at a crossroads. Having struggled and ultimately failed as Spoiler, our heroine has given up the identity, been shunned by other members of the Bat-Family, is living at home with her mother, and about to start her first-term at Gotham University.

After the death of Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson (Nightwing) has succeeded him as Batman, with Bruce's son Damien taking up the Robin mantle. The former Batgirl - the great Cassandra Cain - has relinquished her identity to her friend Stephanie, without consent from anyone else! True to her nature, Steph renews her fight against crime in the guise originally created by Barbara Gordon A.K.A. Oracle, who's NOT happy!

At the time, DC Comics was revamping Batman for this generation and Grant Morrison did a spectacular job for his run by reinventing the whole Batman/Robin dynamic with Dick and Damien, yet keeping the core of it true to the original. Bryan Q. Miller does the same with Stephanie as Batgirl in award-winning fashion.

Like Barbara Gordon did when she started out as Batgirl, Stephanie had noble intentions and plenty of potential, yet lacked the proper training and guidance to ensure her own safety. Over time, Barbara would prove herself worthy in Batman's eyes, and this premise transfers over to Steph ideally. After all the mistakes she's made in her life and career, Steph deserves a second chance. She KNOWS she's screwed up more times than she can count; she ACKNOWLEDGES that, but rather than run away, Stephanie's determined to confront her demons, set things right once and for all and prove herself just like Babs once did. The whole thing is just so inspiring, and paced perfectly (issue-after-issue).

Batgirl Rising isn't just a saga to start Stephanie's road to redemption. For readers who've never been exposed to the character, Miller takes the opportunity to sum up her past and who she is through great flashbacks and a wonderful insight into her mind. The writer also takes the chance to establish a brand new life for Steph via university, her relationship with her mother and training to become a better crime fighter. As things progress, Steph soon realises just how together things are for her for the first time. She has a shot at enjoying/graduating university, maintaining her life and finally gaining the approval of all her peers, and as she begins to make things work, you really start to root her on as a result.

It's not just Stephanie that Miller does wonders for, it's Barbara too who's at a crossroads. Angry, bitter, single & disabled, Oracle is not in the best of places here, and Stephanie using HER name (having not even EARNED it!) makes for a great confrontation, as well as the start of a new relationship between them. As Steph and Babs come to grow and realise just how much they need one another, Miller dishes out some hilarious banter and beautiful, human exchanges. The book has just got tonnes of character, interaction and heart, and it reflects most of all through the wonderful Babs/Steph relationship.

In their conversational moments, Stephanie & Barbara receive great focus and thus grow into much better people. From arguing to putting aside their differences, to hanging out together, training and working on the field, `Team Batgirl' ultimately proves to be a great mentor/student pairing where loads of fun & drama can be found, especially when they come-to-blows with Batman & Robin, which is where Miller REALLY shines.

The Dick & Barbara relationship has always been one of the core elements in the Batman mythos. They were lovers, they occasionally clashed as the original Batgirl & Robin, and they've long grown-up to try and continue Bruce's work. They both feel the burden & old wounds, particularly over Stephanie and Damien succeeding their old roles. Speaking if which, I'm in the camp who DESPISES Damien. He's spoilt, highly arrogant, murderous and grossly unworthy of being Robin. But Miller works wonders again with how he writes the relationship between him and Steph; starting out as mutual contempt before finishing as this begrudging sibling rivalry. It's surprisingly good fun, and all the more terrific to see how it all resolves.

So, great interaction, hilarious wit, beautiful drama & inspiring characters? Anything else to purchase this book for? Yes! A GREAT assortment of villains to really test the new Batgirl's mettle, such as the Scarecrow, Livewire, Roxy Rocket, Doctor Phosphorous & Roulette, a superb supporting cast (featuring the highly likeable Detective Gage), gorgeous artwork from Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott and the excellent new Batgirl suit for Steph make this collection of stories simply mandatory for comic lovers.

Batgirl: Batgirl Rising is the start of (frankly) greatness. Thanks to Bryan Miller's winning formula, Stephanie Brown is better than ever and one of comic's most utterly appealing heroines. A virtually flawless piece of work.

Doctor Who - Series 7 Part 1 [DVD + UV Copy]
Doctor Who - Series 7 Part 1 [DVD + UV Copy]
Dvd ~ Matt Smith
Price: £12.10

26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome back to form, Matt & Steve! Farewell, Karen & Arthur..., 16 Dec 2012
Series 6 of Doctor Who was something people either loved or hated. While it had it's moments, I felt Steve Moffat had over-extended himself with his writing and direction, turning the once-proud and magnificent show into an (overall) long-winded and inaccessible mess that just got lost within itself.

Let down by the gross inconsistency, I opted NOT to check out the 2011 Christmas Special ("The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe") and was not seeing or hearing anything to make me want to tune back into the show. But then Moffat started bringing up Daleks, Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) & Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) announced their shocking departure and despite the creative direction having dipped drastically...I LOVE Matt Smith's Doctor.

So on the verge of switching off...I decided to give the show a second chance. I'm REALLY glad I did! So far, this seventh series of Doctor Who signifies a return to form, and given it's DVD release, Part 1 is something I would highly recommend.

After his whole overcomplicated "Death of the Doctor" arc, Moffat wisely returns to what he does best; concentrating his writing into SINGULAR episodes. This time, his direction and vision has extended into a much-more mature & disciplined form of storytelling for this series. So far, the episodes (although linked by continuity) are pretty much self-contained tales, like Who used to be before its 2005 revival. By keeping things simple, Doctor Who feels fresher than its been for years, and it clearly shows in what has (to date) been a very strong outing.

Starting with the much-hyped series-opener, "Asylum of the Daleks" sets the standard and is the best episode since Series 5's "Time of the Angels/Flesh & Stone". After the hugely disappointing "Victory of the Daleks" and being absent (sans a criminally brief cameo) throughout all Series 6, "Asylum" returns the Daleks back to their rightful place as the Doctor's most terrifying and deadliest foes.

It's Moffat's first proper Dalek episode, and it's a classic, seeing the Doctor, Amy & Rory actually summoned by their arch-enemies to actually HELP them! Steve's writing here is at its best for this one, paying homage & expanding upon the Daleks' illustrious history and depth. Featuring plenty of good scares, the excellent Jenna-Louise Coleman (the next companion in-line) in a surprise appearance, a great twist in the Amy & Rory relationship and a satisfying ending, this has all the trademark intricacies, psychology, shocks, emotion & drama that made Moffat famous. It's everything a Dalek episode SHOULD be! The best since Series 4's "The Stolen Earth"!

After that, we have "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" (by Chris Chibnall), an episode that (on paper) looks set to be as bad as Series 5's "Vampires in Venice" and yet turns out to be a really enjoyable family romp. Okay, it's a ridiculously silly premise, but thanks to quality writing and presentation, the whole episode turns out great, offering family entertainment, a delightful array of fun characters, absurd creatures & nasty villains, plus the Fast Show legend himself Mark Williams offering superb entertainment as Rory's dad Brian.

The wonderful variety of this series is expanded upon in "A Town Called Mercy", one of the most powerful, intelligent and adult tales we've seen in the Moffat era. Veteran Who writer Toby Whithouse delivers a tense, claustrophobic episode that touches upon several moral dilemmas, all of which are handled and resolved with excellence in the inspired western setting. The ones to watch out for here are Matt Smith (whose Doctor borders on dark, menacing & fragile) & Andrew Brooke who breathes such life and sympathy into the tragic rouge, The Gunslinger.

What sets Series 7 apart from previous series is that Moffat actually takes the opportunity to age the companions. Amy and Rory don't remain with the Doctor on his travels like they used to, instead going without seeing him for months (or even years) before resuming their adventures. It's an original way of exploring the lives of the companions, and Chris Chibnall utilises the idea to give such heart in "The Power of Three."

It's worth mentioning that both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill give perhaps the most down-to-earth and heartbreaking performances as Amy & Rory for the last two episodes on this set. Throughout "The Power of Three" (which is another wonderful outing that thrives on the domestic setting), it becomes apparent that Amy and Rory have outgrown the Doctor and are on the verge of leaving him altogether. It's truly a time for sadness as events reach their ill-fated conclusion, and when "The Angels Take Manhattan"...the tears WILL fall in what is a genuinely heartbreaking departure. Although Amy and Rory's exit doesn't quite have the same power as Rose Tyler or Donna Noble's, it's nonetheless devastating as two companions who have proved themselves most worthy of the Time Lord must finally say goodbye.

Anything else? The Weeping Angels and River Song (Alex Kingston) are back again for the finale, and although they lack the same sparkle that they possessed in earlier series, their presence is still important for the terrifying, life-changing mid-season finale. That plus the exceptional guest appearances from Jenna-Louise Coleman (who will doubtless be a legendary companion after her performance here) and Mark Williams (proving himself worthy of Bernard Cribbins' Wilfred Mott) has so far made Series 7 absolutely charming, spectacular and major.

Doctor Who: Series 7 Part One has proven itself to be a true return to form for the show. I don't recall Doctor Who being this consistent since Series 4 (my favourite!). Steve Moffat has finally mastered his vision, and Matt Smith just continues to cement his legacy as the Eleventh Doctor. For those fans who felt let down by Series 6, your faith will be restored with this box set. I'm certainly looking forward to the rest of the series next year.

P.S. Goodbye, Karen and Arthur for giving such greatness to the show. You will be sorely missed.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2013 1:05 PM BST

Driving Test Success All Tests DVD 2012 Edition (Interactive DVD)
Driving Test Success All Tests DVD 2012 Edition (Interactive DVD)
Offered by AMSLTD
Price: £6.63

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, clear, helpful & ultimately vital, 9 Dec 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sooner or later, everyone will have to take that life-changing step. To learn how-to-drive. A truly daunting and arduous task as anyone who's taken the opportunity will attest, and I myself am currently learning.

Before getting behind the wheel, I took the chance to order this from the Amazon Vine Programme, and I'm really glad I did! Driving Test Success is a superb package from Focus Multimedia, containing everything that learners will need to help them in learning the rules of the road and being able to drive safely and confidently.

This All Tests DVD is a three-disc set designed to work on regular DVD players. The format of it is really versatile indeed, enabling all ages to play the discs on whatever device is compatible; DVD player, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC/Mac etc. All users and age-ranges have been taken into consideration for this, whether it be those who prefer a mouse or a remote control. All the options/menus/functions are simple to operate and very responsive. As an interactive experience, Driving Test Success is immersive and practical.

The three discs cover each of the essentials learners will have to master in order to achieve driving success. They are the Theory Test, Hazard Perception and Practical Driving. Each disc is packed with complete detail regarding each area, everything from on-screen instructions/rules/criteria to commentaries/interviews/demonstrations from professional driving instructors, car experts & police sergeants. To the beginner who maybe daunted by the prospects of driving, all the information is explained/demonstrated in a clear, concise & digestible way. This helps ease the viewer into learning everything required and when coupled with actually driving a vehicle, makes the experience most valuable.

Starting with the Theory Test, this disc will be most useful in helping learners to remember the rules of the road. For me, it really helped having a digital copy of the complete Highway Code (latest edition) on this disc. It's a great way to learn the Highway Code (along with reading the separate book) and the Practice Tests (with hints) and Mock Exams (without hints) will not only ensure the information sinks in, but also provide good preperation and experience for when you actually sit your Theory.

Other remarkable features about the Theory Test disc are that once you've completed either the Practice Test/Mock Exam, you will receive your calculated score and exact feedback on how well you did. Correct/incorrect answers will be identified to show where you will need more revision. I found this really helpful when studying my Highway Code, along with the `Show Me, Tell Me' videos which looks under the bonnet of the car, and the rest of the functions of the vehicle. Again, these videos are presented in a clear, concise manner, which will help learners in further prep for when they sit their actual Driving Test. Other features like the introduction to the whole disc, how to book your Theory Test and a brief intro into Hazard Perception make this disc the ideal place to begin.

The Hazard Perception Test likewise provides an invaluable experience for learners, as they will have to be able to identify any and all problems they encounter on the road. There're over a hundred video clips here, along with a great range of practice clips (as well as an introduction) into what Hazard Perception is all about. With this rich assortment of perfect examples (along with excellent commentary), learners will soon be able to pick up on what they should be keeping their eyes open for whilst driving. Like all other videos across this set, the footage is very good quality with nothing to badmouth.

As with Theory, there are Practice Tests/Mock Exams to indulge in (along with an introduction into what the actual exam itself will involve). Again, this provides ideal learning and will be a big help. However, due to DVD constraints, the Hazard Perception interaction will NOT disqualify you for cheating if you press the `OK' button on your remote too many times, but it will register the Hazard you've identified with the traditional `Red Flag' on screen. Scores are calculated accordingly, based on your performance, and the option to review the clips/what Hazards should've been identified is on hand also.

Finally, the Practical Driving Lessons disc. Obviously, you can't simulate/interact with an actual driving lesson on a DVD. Instead, you have tutorials with a proper driving instructor & a learner driver, covering all the basics/lessons for aspiring motorists. Safety checks, routines, controls, starting/stopping, moving off, hazards, weather conditions, roundabouts, crossroads, junctions, use of mirrors, reversing etc. It's all covered here, along with a mock exam video with the instructor & learner so you can know in advance what to expect on the big day.

If you haven't even got behind the wheel of a car yet, Practical Driving Lessons is an excellent visual for learners to know what to expect. If there are areas of driving you're struggling with, then the lessons here will help you relax. So that when you try again, you can do so with a positive attitude. All the tutorials are certainly beneficial and round off what is ultimately a vital package for learners.

Despite suffering from one or two minor imperfections (due to DVD constraints), Driving Test Success: All Tests DVD is mandatory for everyone currently learning to drive. It's comprehensive and complete, and at a tenner it's utterly worthwhile. With the Highway Code, actual lessons and THIS, learners will have a much easier time settling into the task of learning to drive. I know I did! Worth every penny.

The Dark Knight Rises- The Official Movie Novelization
The Dark Knight Rises- The Official Movie Novelization
by Greg Cox
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best novelisation of a movie I've read!, 30 Nov 2012
How did I rate The Dark Knight Rises? The same as most. I thought it was an excellent film and the ideal way to finish Christopher Nolan's epic Batman trilogy. Featuring award-winning performances from the likes of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman & Joseph Gordon-Levitt - plus the deep, hard-hitting emotional story to resolve everything Batman Begins and The Dark Knight had established - The Dark Knight Rises ended the saga with the conclusion the films richly deserved, making Nolan's trilogy not only the greatest superhero film trilogy of all time, but one of the best film trilogies in the entire history of cinema.

Now as we all know...once a major blockbuster comes along and takes the world by storm - as The Dark Knight Rises did - tie-in merchandise is inevitable and natural to satiate fans until the movie comes out on home video. And a prime example of tie-in merchandise are novelizations of films.

This has always been a problematic marketing ploy. I mean, if you've already seen the film, why would you want to read a book that recaps the whole story word-for-word? If you HAVEN'T seen the film...why would you pay to read spoilers? It's something of a redundant scheme to make money.

So here I was opting to check out Greg Cox's novelization of The Dark Knight Rises. Probably because I was so itching to familiarize myself with the story again that I purchased the novel to satisfy myself until the film came out on DVD. It's a decision I've had absolutely no regrets about!

The story itself we have to thank Christopher Nolan for (along with Jonathan Nolan & David S. Goyer for co-writing the screenplay & story respectively). Like the plots in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the third film has many twists and turns. All the characters are colourful and develop beautifully along with the story, there are many shockers along the way, and the ending is so utterly satisfying.

The Dark Knight Rises transfers supremely well into the literary format, and it's all down to Greg Cox. Cox does Nolan's masterpiece justice with his writing style, making what's already an emotionally-invested epic into something even more engaging. Greg provides such a great insight into each of the characters' minds; their fears, guilt, thoughts and feelings regarding themselves, others and the situations they find themselves in. It's true understanding of character, and provides fans with a real opportunity to explore things that the film itself just couldn't portray.

Cox avoids the trap of most novelizations by expanding on Nolan's story. Instead of just replicating a film's events word-for-word (like most writers do when assigned this task), this writer presents the story as though it's actually an original novel that he's written himself. The attention to detail of the environments and appearances is excellent, as is the description of fight scenes & action sequences. The additional dialogue that Cox inserts is most refreshing, adding to the greatness of the original script instead of bogging events down.

Another positive boon with this novelization is the several notable references to the Joker. The only real criticism I had with The Dark Knight Rises when I saw it was that there were no references to the Joker or his ultimate fate after The Dark Knight (done out of respect for Heath Ledger, no doubt), which I felt was shunning such an important & integral element of Nolan's Batman Trilogy altogether. With this novelization, Cox raises the Joker issue and tackles the character's ambiguous whereabouts in a manner that's befitting, logical and ultimately satisfying. The writer also makes sure to stress how deeply the Joker's rampage affected both Batman, Commissioner Gordon & the people of Gotham, as they still have to deal with the deep, terrible scars.

Greg Cox deserves props for this one, most of all for his writing style and his perfect pacing. Like so many of its ilk, this novelization could've been a cheap, rushed cash-in. Instead it's a really surprising accompaniment to one of 2012's best films. To those who loved The Dark Knight Rises (and Batman fans in general), this is a novelization I would really recommend.

Red Dwarf X [DVD]
Red Dwarf X [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Barrie
Price: £5.50

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red Dwarf's burning brightly again!, 15 Nov 2012
This review is from: Red Dwarf X [DVD] (DVD)
Three years after Back to Earth, the crew of Red Dwarf have returned once more, in the first full series since Red Dwarf VIII way back in 1999!

The gang's all here - except for Kochanski (ChloŽ Annett) & Holly (Norman Lovett/Hattie Hayridge), sadly - but you can once again sit back and enjoy the crazy antics of hologram Rimmer (Chris Barrie), the last human alive Lister (Craig Charles), the Cat (Danny John-Jules) and the android Kryten (Robert Llewellyn), older and none-the-wiser as they continue to combat the monotony of life aboard the oversized mining-ship three-million years away from Earth.

After 2009's successful Back to Earth (despite fan response being mixed), writer Doug Naylor has gone back-to-basics. Remembering the show's original roots, Naylor successfully returns to the core of what made Red Dwarf so special. He goes for six self-contained stories featuring the antics of four radically different companions as they try to survive the day-to-day rigours of life in deep space. By being less ambitious than he was for Back to Earth, Series 10 signifies a triumphant return to screens from the Dwarfers.

For the first time since Series 8, Red Dwarf is filmed in front of a live audience, which is really pleasing. Anytime you have Red Dwarf without the laughter track, it loses a key component of what makes it so special. The restoration of a live audience certainly drives the actors to perform to the best of their abilities, and it clearly shows throughout the series, with Chris, Craig, Danny and Robert not only settling back down comfortably into their old roles, but THRIVING as well!

Doug Naylor's writing feels sharper and fresher than it's been in years, with the man delivering some superb scripts for the episodes. He also takes the time to further develop both Lister & Rimmer's characters to great effect, fuelling some excellent episodes with great sci-fi writing and some genuinely hilarious comedy, especially through Kryten & the Cat. Although I would've loved to have seen Kryten & the Cat receive the same level of character development that the other crew-members receive, all four still provide the special antics we've come to love from the show.

A lot of things are touched upon through Series 10, such as Lister's loneliness/ongoing desire to find Kochanski and make something of his life, Rimmer's resentfulness, shortcomings & terrible family life, an off-hand reference to `The Identity Within' (the lost episode from Series 7) and finally the unresolved mystery of Series 8's cliff-hanger (which is used to creative & hilarious effect!). Aside from treading new ground, Series 10 pays homage to a lot of things that Red Dwarf has established, which is much appreciated.

Most of the episodes themselves are certainly above average, the series opener `Trojan' in particular being one that sets the overall standard. Admittedly, it's a bit of a slow-burner to begin with, but once it kicks into a higher-gear, `Trojan' becomes just as outstanding as any other episode from Red Dwarf history. Seeing Lister and the Cat going about purchase of `the Stirmaster', Rimmer reuniting with a much dreaded face from his past, encountering space-corps derelicts and rogue, sadistic Simulants and genuine hilarities aplenty; it's all true to the spirit of Red Dwarf indeed, making `Trojan' a very strong and worthy start to the series.

And the inspired comedy continues throughout the remaining (spectacular) episodes, with the only real blemish being `Lemons', which may possibly be the worst episode of Red Dwarf EVER! Big words, indeed...but for me, that's the case. On paper, the idea of actually meeting Jesus potentially could've been very controversial and entertaining, and's just not funny. Nothing blasphemous or offensive...just completely dull. A risky concept that's executed pitifully. My opinion? Ignore `Lemons' completely!

Aside from that, `Fathers & Suns', `Entangled' and `Dear Dave' are full of sharp-writing, great-plotting, terrific humour/excitement, fab development for the characters and outstanding performances all-round (watch out in particular for Craig Charles' award-winning drunk father-son conversation to HIMSELF!). And the well-titled finale `The Beginning' is such a superb finish, featuring Rimmer's long-awaited finest hour, Kryten's listing of their `armoury', more excitement with the Simulant menace, and the perfect ending which makes me feel hopeful for the future.

As with past Red Dwarf DVDs, there will doubtless be plenty of goodies to accompany the episodes, such as commentaries, documentaries, trailers and of course...SMEG-UPS!!! So once again, loyal fans can be happy in the knowledge that there's a rich assortment of extras to accompany the episodes on DVD.

Red Dwarf X is a true return-to-form for the Boys from the Dwarf. After watching (and enjoying) Back to Earth, I would've been happy if that had been the end, yet I would've loved to have seen more Dwarf. Now having seen this tenth series, I want more, and I think the show deserves another outing based on the strength of this.

Watch out, Earth! The Slime's come home! And we're LOVING it!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2012 7:09 PM GMT

WWE - Hulk Hogan's Unreleased Collectors Series [DVD]
WWE - Hulk Hogan's Unreleased Collectors Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hulk Hogan
Offered by RCDiscs.
Price: £21.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unreleased doesn't equal Ultimate, I'm afraid..., 11 Nov 2012
Hulk Hogan's Unreleased Collector's Series has many selling points. The biggest obviously being it's HULK HOGAN, perhaps the greatest name in the history of wrestling (and likely to remain so forever). Another key temptation about this release is that it's a three-disc set that collects VERY RARE bouts against a who's-who of wrestling such as Bret `Hitman' Hart, Bob Backlund, Vader, Kurt Angle etc, along with some overlooked contests against long-time rivals Andre the Giant, `Macho Man' Randy Savage, Sting & Ric Flair.

Enticing, yeah? Especially if you're a Hulkamaniac (which I proudly am!). So, you'd think this would as be essential as say Hulk Hogan: The Ultimate Anthology. Sadly, that's not the case, as the Unreleased Collector's Series is something of a missed opportunity.

The biggest problem with this DVD goes back to the last big Hogan set. The Ultimate Anthology was the definitive Hulk DVD (in my opinion), boasting the greatest matches of his whole career, comments from many wrestling legends/superstars & Hulk himself, along with the hosting of Mean Gene Okerlund and Jimmy Hart. Compared to the 4-disc Ultimate Anthology, this collection feels very lacking and it's not just the sheer standard/quality overall of the Ultimate Anthology that overshadows the Unreleased Collector's's everything.

To start with the format, the presentation is the kind that was employed in Tombstone: The History of the Undertaker and The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment - it's narration pieces between the matches explaining the circumstances and chronicling Hogan's career. There's no contributions from Hulk himself or anyone else. This is disappointing, but it is understandable given that at the time of release (back in late 2009), Hogan & Eric Bischoff were long preparing to debut on TNA, making this Collector's Series an ill-timed affair. Although the presentation is adequate, it proves problematic. A) because it doesn't compare with the richness of the Ultimate Anthology's format, and B) it feels disjointed.

For example, whenever the program cuts to either a promo from Hulk regarding his WrestleMania showdowns with Andre the Giant or the Ultimate Warrior, you'd naturally expect the epic clash to follow. But of course, it doesn't because said-bouts are on another DVD, which makes inclusion of these (otherwise terrific) promos confusing or irrelevant, really.

Now, because we've already seen the absolute best of Hulk's in-ring work on DVD, the Unreleased Collector's Series was gonna have a VERY hard time trying to match the sheer quality of the bouts contained on The Ultimate Anthology (which had all his WrestleMania main-events, historic collisions with the Iron Sheik, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker, Sting etc and infamous tag-title win with Edge). The only legendary matches that were shamefully excluded from Ultimate Anthology were his rare-losses to the likes of Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg, and those would be the most sensible and logical choices for THIS DVD, given how utterly major those matches were, and that they helped propel both Lesnar and Goldberg right to the top.

But alas, they're NOT included. Probably because those matches have been released elsewhere (which would be against the point of Unreleased), but it's still yet another disappointment regarding this set.

However, there ARE some forgotten gems to be discovered here amidst the flaws. The greatest being the WWE Championship match against then-champion Bob Backlund. In an old school bout, we see the powerhouse Hulk match incredibly with the shooter/mat-technician Backlund in an ultra-fine bout for thirty-minutes, proving to Hogan's critics that he could actually wrestle a straight-up pure bout instead of just performing and working the audience.

Of course, there are must-see collisions against some of the greatest workers of all time, like Randy Savage, Rick Rude and Kurt Angle. There's also a wild-bout with Triple H, a great cage match against Vader, exciting collisions with Haku, Big Bossman, Killer Kahn, Sgt. Slaughter & Sting, and various fun-filled Tag Team contests from history with the Junkyard Dog, Randy Savage, Bam Bam Bigelow & Edge against guys like Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, Ted DiBiase & Ric Flair.

Sadly, it's not all good. Matches against big chaps like Kamala, One Man Gang and Earthquake fail to find the mark, a WCW title match against The Giant (a.k.a. the Big Show) starts off well before degenerating into a typical nWo beatdown, the bouts against Ric Flair (one from 1991, the other from 2002) sadly turn out disappointing, squashes against Harry Valdez, Steve King & Angelo Gomez are just chances for Hogan to flex his muscles, and what surely should've been classic - the one-and-only in-ring meeting against Bret Hart from WCW Nitro - starts out promising, and then changes halfway-through to another Hogan/Sting bout in ludicrous fashion, before finishing in a inconclusive segment to build up a Sting/Bret Hart match! Good lord...

Am I being too harsh? Probably, but I really can't help it. As I've said several times in this review, Hulk Hogan: The Ultimate Anthology was the essential purchase for Hulkamaniacs and wrestling fans. This Unreleased Collector's Series just can't compare. The rarity of these bouts is valid, and you may find some really nice surprises (the best being the WWE Title match against Bob Backlund).

On another note, it's great to see footage of Hogan's days BEFORE Hulkamania, when he was a heel and managed by Classy Freddie Blassie, and in the bouts that come without original commentary, you can be treated to the modern-day discussions of Jim Ross & Jerry `the King' Lawler which naturally makes for fab listening. There's a great collection of Hulk's promos for Special Features as well.

But overall, Hulk Hogan: Unreleased Collector's Series feels average to me. And when the subject is Hulk Hogan, that just won't do. It's good on the whole, but some Hulkamaniacs may be disappointed like I was. Get the Ultimate Anthology instead.

WWE - Hell In A Cell 2010 [DVD]
WWE - Hell In A Cell 2010 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kane
Offered by Rapid-DVD
Price: £7.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half great, half not-so-great..., 5 Nov 2012
Hell in a Cell. Perhaps the most frightening gimmick match ever contested in wrestling. It's CERTAINLY one of the most dangerous (as many grapplers and referee Tim White will attest), one of the most historic (thanks to the likes of Mick Foley, the Undertaker, Triple H & Shawn Michaels) and truly one of the most violent.

Those attributes of this legendary gimmick have been diminished over the last few years, sadly. Ever since WWE turned PG, really. Despite a few, very MAJOR exceptions (Undertaker vs. Edge, D-X vs. Legacy & Undertaker vs. Triple H), Hell in a Cell these days is a shadow of what it used to be, due to content restrictions and being used as a selling point for the gimmick-themed pay-per-view of the same name, instead of the feud-ending climactic collision it was originally billed to be.

Since Hell in a Cell succeeded No Mercy as the annual October pay-per-view, quality has been overall average at best. It's the same with the 2010 offering, here. With a lot of great stuff going on at the time i.e. The Nexus, the Miz, Sheamus, Kane as World Heavyweight Champion, there's plenty of reason to check out this Hell in a Cell. It's just a shame that the quality's so disjointed throughout.

United States Championship Triple Threat Match (Submissions Count Anywhere)
Daniel Bryan (Champion) vs. John Morrison vs. The Miz
Now, Bryan is right in his element here, as you would imagine. And as ever, the excellent technician/submission specialist DELIVERS. But it's the CHALLENGERS who really impress me here. Morrison's spectacular, high-risk offense is on hand, but he also brings some absolutely credible submission moves to the fold, as does the Miz (his pre-match promo is awesome as usual!). Excellent technical displays, great arena-wide brawling and full-innovative use of the stipulation make this opener a diamond of a U.S. title match. High-marks all round! (8/10)

WWE Championship Hell in a Cell Match
Randy Orton (Champion) vs. Sheamus
An odd pairing for Hell in a Cell, especially given that it's for the title! Again, it's impeded by WWE's policy to adhere to PG, with the cage itself not really coming into play. However, Orton & Sheamus do manage to put on a tough, bruising encounter with some wincing spots involving a steel chair and the steel steps. The Irishman solidifies his title contention status in worthy fashion. As for Orton, good work as always. (8/10)

Edge vs. Jack Swagger
In the twilight of his career, Edge was declaring `war against stupidity' for a short time before one last world-title run. If that angle sounded really stupid and contrived, then that's because it was. After an appearance from the brilliant Alberto Del Rio and the excellent Anonymous Raw General manager, we have this unscheduled, impromptu match. Really, the crowd had every right to be dead for this one, and despite a potential chemistry between Edge and Swagger, the match never changes into a higher gear. I expected better from these two, but when there's no heat or cause for excitement, no wonder it's a dud. (5/10)

John Cena vs. Wade Barrett
(If Cena wins, Nexus disbands. If Cena loses, he joins Nexus.)
One of the best storylines in 2010 was the NXT Season 1 rookies forming the renegade stable Nexus. It really got them all noticed as top-notch talent, especially Wade Barrett whose leadership and promo skills made him an excellent heel. Nexus targeting Cena made for some great television, and this match can be considered a high-point. This is a crisp, excellent bout with Wade proving he belongs in the ring with a main-eventer like John. Great length, great interference from Nexus & the WWE roster, plus a genuinely shocking finish make this bout a true gem. Shame the creative team really mucked up the opportunity that followed, but this is still great stuff. Match of the night. (9/10)

Unified WWE Divas Championship Match
Michelle McCool (Champion w/Layla) vs. Natalya
With the terrific heels LayCool in possession of the Divas' title, Hart-Dungeon graduate Natalya was finally gonna get her shot at glory. And like too many women's bouts in WWE, the result is so brief that it hinders the result. The finish is cheap too, but both ladies display some fine chemistry and decent action in the time allowed. Layla's great at ringside too, as is the aftermath. Just a shame it wasn't allowed to be more. (5/10)

World Heavyweight Championship Hell in a Cell Match
Kane (Champion) vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer)
Now THIS Hell in a Cell makes PERFECT booking sense. Aside from it being integral to the Undertaker's career and the beginning of whole Taker/Kane rivalry back in 1997, Hell in a Cell was the next logical step in this latest chapter of the legendary feud. And if this was the Attitude Era, then this could easily have been the colossal war it deserved to be. But due to PG restrictions and bad booking, all intensity and violence are sucked out. Kane and Taker do make the final result okay, with some decent action and a nice twist for the finale but this is several steps down from their excellent Night of Champions collision. Not what it should've been, and that's a real disappointment. (6/10)

Two special features here. One's the aftermath of a Randy Orton/Chris Jericho bout from Raw, and the other is a Home Exclusive Interview with John Cena. Both features are better than most you'd find on WWE PPV DVDs these days, which is rather pleasing.

End result? WWE Hell in a Cell 2010 is certainly a mixed bag, filled with some terrific contests (namely the U.S. Title opener, Orton/Sheamus and Barrett/Cena) and some disappointing offerings (Edge/Swagger & Undertaker/Kane). Not one to own, but one that you won't necessarily regret having either. Your choice.

Wwe: No Mercy 2008 [DVD]
Wwe: No Mercy 2008 [DVD]
Offered by Rapid-DVD
Price: £6.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best offerings from 2008!, 1 Nov 2012
This review is from: Wwe: No Mercy 2008 [DVD] (DVD)
Finding WWE DVDs from yesteryear at bargain prices has been a guilty pleasure of mine over the last year. And really, when you have quality events such as No Mercy 2008, it'd be very daft not to pick this up for less than a fiver.

2008 could be called a very good year for WWE, given that virtually all of its pay-per-views that year were excellent at the very least. So many great feuds and storylines were also fuelling WWE television with tremendous success, the biggest being the legendary feud between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho. Another really notable angle was Jeff Hardy's rise to main-event status and determination to go through Triple H to achieve his dream of being world champion.

With those white-hot angles translating into equally blistering in-ring action, this No Mercy (sadly the final one due to WWE changing most of their pay-per-view names the following year) is headlined by two MUST-SEE main-events and featuring a REALLY strong undercard, which is made all-the-more special by the enthusiastic Portland, Oregon crowd in the Rose Garden.

ECW Championship Match
Matt Hardy (Champion) vs. Mark Henry (w/Tony Atlas)
As we know, the original spirit of ECW had long been killed and repressed by WWE's `vision' of the brand. However, as a breeding ground for future success on Raw & SmackDown, you could look forward to some really good wrestling indeed. And that's what Matt Hardy gave as the ECW champion. Mark Henry being managed by Tony Atlas certainly had a positive affect on his career. The result? A very solid opener showcasing an excellent technician giving Henry the best match of his life at this point. Really surprising contest. (7/10)

WWE Women's Championship Match
Beth Phoenix (Champion w/Santino Marella) vs. Candice Michelle
Poor Candice. Back in 2007, she'd evolved into an outstanding wrestler/performer. Then she suffered that devastating clavicle injury which put her out for a year and she never really recovered from it. It shows in Candice's performance here, sadly not performing with the confidence, grace & skill that she once possessed. However, thanks to Beth (and the ever charismatic Santino at ringside), this remains a spirited title match with some good action in the time that's given. Not as crisp as the wonderful series these two had in 2007, but still worth a watch. (6/10)

Rey Mysterio vs. Kane
If Rey Loses, He Must Unmask.
This feud was very illogical, and the storyline behind it was nonsensical. There's so little build-up and emotional investment in the match itself, that you're left wondering if there's even any point in the stipulation. Having said all that though, this is yet another real surprise for viewers. The right pace, some great chemistry and a boisterous audience all make for a wonderful David-and-Goliath affair. The DQ finish is annoying but the bout is certainly very pleasant indeed. (7/10)

No. 1 Contender's Match
Batista vs. John "Bradshaw" Layfield
Quite a short, smash-mouth affair. Nothing that fancy, just two tough blokes slugging it out for the right to face the World Heavyweight Champion. And you know what? It's another strong, consistent encounter on the show. Not as memorable as their infamous No Holds Barred match from SummerSlam 2005, but still great fun. And JBL's heelish promo and the segment afterwards is just pure gold. (7/10)

The Undertaker vs. The Big Show.
Hurrah! YET ANOTHER Taker-Show feud! Aren't I excited? I was shut up very quickly, though! After seeing the Dead Man and the Giant fight each other several times over the years, this particular match-up may be the best encounter they've ever had together. The action is fast, hard-hitting and really surprising. The finish is truly shocking! (8/10)

WWE Championship Match
Triple H (Champion) vs. Jeff Hardy
Say what you will about Triple H, no can deny that he played a huge role in helping to establish Jeff as bonafide main-event material. With plenty of reason to get excited about this match, the WWE Champion and the white-hot challenger simply tear the house down in an almost perfect encounter, featuring electric chemistry, seamless pacing and a story that will have you on the edge of your seat. The final moments are just so thrilling, and the finish will stay with you forever. My match of the a MARGIN. (9/10)

World Heavyweight Championship Ladder Match
Chris Jericho (Champion) vs. Shawn Michaels
The rivalry of 2008 equals the stuff of legend. Two of the greatest of all time had such an unforgettable feud, both in the ring and in segments, and this ladder match for the world title may just be the high-point. Both absolute pros in this environment, Shawn & Chris put on a brutal display, using the ladder to sickening and dramatic effect. Excellent main-event and one of the best bouts of 2008. (9/10)

Special Features include a Home Video exclusive interview with the Big Show and an excellent SmackDown triple-threat between Triple H (WWE Champ), Chris Jericho (World Champ) & Matt Hardy (ECW Champ) in an exclusive encounter of Champions in the final SmackDown before No Mercy. Featuring absolute-quality wrestling (the kind exclusive to SmackDown!), this is the perfect bonus to this DVD. (8/10)

WWE No Mercy 2008 has all the right stuff going for it. The two world title matches are nothing short of classic. Everything else is just great wrestling throughout. Obviously, this would be the very last No Mercy event, and like so many annual events from the WWE PPV calendar before the mass name changing, this is a show that goes out on a high. One of the best events ever for fans to own.

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